Frostbite- Chapter 42

The six hours between moonset and moonrise went by in a flash. Especially because she knew the next day would be even shorter. And then—well, maybe by then it would all be over.

Bobby came with her back to the fire tower. He had a padlock in his hand so he could lock her inside. She tried not to think about what her wolf was going to do when it found itself locked up, again.

Lucie, the French lycanthrope who had given her curse to Powell, had gone mad from being confined when the moon was up. Of course, she’d been doing it for centuries. Chey wasn’t sure she could live any kind of life that long without going crazy.

Then again, she’d had so little practice at life. What did she know?

Bobby knew exactly when the moon would come up. He offered to sit with her until nearly the last minute. She wanted to tell him not to bother, that he didn’t have to coddle her like that. Instead she tried to hug him, to hold him close, to force him to be nearer to her. Physically near her.

“I understand you need some human contact,” he told her, gently pushing her away. “But it’s not so safe anymore. I don’t know if you can pass on your infection to me when you’re in human form. But I won’t take that chance, Chey.”

“No,” she agreed. It occurred to her that she could grab him and pull him close, make him embrace her. She was strong enough. But no.

“It’s not fair to me,” he said, even though she’d already agreed. Did he see in her eyes how much she needed him? If she was honest with herself, she didn’t even like him all that much, had never found him particularly lovable. But she needed somebody, anybody, to understand. To tell her she wasn’t a monster.

She hated herself a little for feeling that way. She could imagine her wolf ’s reaction to those feelings—her lips pulled back over a snarl, her ears back in disgust. But she was still human, too.

She hung her head in shame. After a minute she looked up again. “I want to thank you, Bobby. While I still have the chance.”

“You make it sound like you’re going to die,” he said, scolding her.

She shook her head. “Maybe it’s like dying, if just for a couple of days. But pretty soon I won’t be able to talk. And I really do want to thank you. You got me up here, you got me closer than anyone ever could have. You knew exactly what I needed, what was holding me back. And you tried to fix me. Heal me, I mean.”

“I had my own reasons for wanting him dead,” he grumbled, but not loud enough that she couldn’t pretend he’d kept quiet.

“Whatever happens,” she said, “we tried, right? A lot of people have wrecked lives but they never try to put things right. This was a silly thing to do, I know that. But at least we tried. Because you believed in me.”

He did reach over, then, and rubbed her back a little. She wanted to reach up and take his hand—surely, surely that would be okay? But no, she knew it wouldn’t. If she reached for him he would pull away again.

“You...did believe in me. Right?”

He exhaled noisily. “I believed you believed in yourself.”

That just confused her. She needed to know, now. She needed to know that he’d been behind her all along, that he really had thought of her as the best person to take down the werewolf. “You hired the Pickersgills a long time ago. You had your gunsmith make all kinds of bullets. I saw them,” she said.

“I don’t know what you’re getting at—” he began, but she reached over to put a finger across his lips. He jerked backward as if she were trying to stab him.

“Just tell me the truth,” she said. “Did you actually think I was going to get Powell? Or did you just send me up here to draw him out?”

He looked at her for a while, his eyes studying her as if he were trying to decide what answer would get him the best return on his investment of lies and truths. His hesitation infuriated her, made her want to drag her nails across his face, because it told her exactly what she wanted to know, far better than any measured response he might come up with.

“Chey, I—” he said.

“Never mind,” she growled. “Don’t—don’t say it.”

“Don’t make this all about you,” he told her. “That’s not the way to handle this.”

She turned away from him in disgust. “How much longer do I have?” she asked. “This is so hard when I don’t have a clock or anything. I wake up and it’s mid-afternoon. Or it’s first thing in the morning. I wake up and—I guess it’s not really like waking at all.”

He glanced at his watch. “We have a couple of minutes. There’s something I wanted to talk to you about,” he said.

She sighed. As much as she needed human companionship right now, she really wanted him to shut up. “Yes?”

“Tomorrow,” he said. “You’ll only have four hours of human time.”

She nodded, understanding. “I want to make the most of it. Have a bath, have at least two real meals. I want to read a book, if you brought any with you. Anything to make me feel more human before I go under for five days straight.”

Bobby grimaced. “Actually—I was thinking maybe you could just stay up here. The whole time.”

“But—why?” she asked.

“It’s just safer for all of us that way. I mean, four hours isn’t a lot of time. We could lose track or something.”

She shook her head. No. No, that wasn’t fair, it wasn’t acceptable!

“I’ll see what I can do about getting you that book. I think the Pickersgills brought up some magazines; maybe they’ll loan you one. Though the last time you had some reading material you just kind of tore it up.”

He meant the Edward Abbey book. The one she’d found in the fire tower and tried to dry out so she could read it. The wolf had torn the printed words to shreds, as surely as if they’d been human bodies.

That was what it did when she tried to lock it up. It destroyed the things she needed to stay sane, because that was the only way it could hurt her.

“No,” she said. “No. I won’t stay up here. I refuse.”

“Okay, time’s up,” he said, before she could protest any more. He climbed down through the trap and before she could even say good- bye he was fitting the padlock.

Chey knelt over the trap and knocked on the closed door. Rapped on it with hard knuckles. “Bobby,” she said, “you son of a bitch, you can’t just leave it like that and expect me to—”

But then silver light flooded her brain.

Later she came to crying, screaming. She came to not quite human. The walls around her—the walls—they were closing in—the walls— how long—how long had she been imprisoned—how long had the wolf howled—the walls—she shrieked; she pushed into a corner of the little room, tears wet on her face—the walls—the walls—

Come on, Chey, she thought. Calm down. Just—calm down.

She focused on her breathing. Focused on the darkness, seeing it as the absence of light, not as some dark fluid that was pressing in on her, drowning her.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Eventually, feeling just a little weak in the knees, she pulled her clothes on. Then she opened one of the shutters to let some light inside.

Four hours. She had four hours left. Or less—how long had it taken her to calm down? How long had she been screaming? How much of her time had she—

She was leaning on the edge of the wall, craning her head out into the fresh air. “Let me out,” she demanded. It came out of her like a moan. “Let me out; I don’t have much time left. I don’t want to be up here. Let me—” Her hands were braced on the wood and they felt very strange. She looked down at them, at the wood she could see right through them. It was like her hands were made of translucent glass. Or—no—as if they were made of fog, of mist.

The silver light came again and found her screaming.

Check out the previous chapters of Frostbite right here.

Excerpted from Frostbite: A Werewolf Tale by David Wellington. Copyright © 2009 by David Wellington. Published in the Unites States by Three Rivers Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. Published in the UK as Cursed by Piatkus Books, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group.

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